Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, 2002-2008, Detroit Diverted…

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Mayor Kilpatrick was a promising son of Detroit, a the captain of his college football team and a Juris Doctor degree graduate from the Detroit College of Law when he took office as Mayor of Detroit in 2002. While his mother served as the U.S. Congresswoman from Detroit. Kilpatrick had been elected the state of Michigan’s first African American to hold the state senate position of minority party leader prior to becoming mayor. He became the youngest man to be elected Mayor of Detroit.

In Detroit’s difficult times, Mr. Kilpatrick became involved in sex scandals and criminal activity that eventually forced him to resign in 2008 amid efforts to have him removed from office. Mr. Kilpatrick was convicted of numerous charges and was incarcerated. During his time in office and criminal trials, he stirred racial controversy and dissension.

On his Facebook, December 12, 2012, Mr. Kilpatrick wrote, “Detroit, I deeply regret my role in yet another distraction from the far more critical issues of Crime, Finances, Morale & Progress that must be addressed.” On March 11, 2013, Mr. Kilpatrick was convicted of multiple felonies and awaits sentencing in prison.

As Mayor, Mr. Kilpatrick’s focus was on improving Detroit’s neighborhoods. He established “Next Detroit, a five year project to enhance six neighborhoods through improved maintenance and investment. He also instituted property tax cuts to aid homeowners.

During his two terms, 75 buildings were renovated downtown and 80 new businesses were established there. He also worked to ease the process of opening new businesses in Detroit, collaborating with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. He also used casino revenues to create a loan fund to assist neighborhood businesses.

During Mr. Kilpatrick’s tenure, Detroit experienced deficits for the first time in 2005. When he took office the population was 922,426. In 2005, the first deficit, the population had dropped to 836,056. The majority of the decrease came from middle class blacks leaving the city.

Foreshadowing the concerns of some Americans regarding what they perceive as America’s dire future financial predicament, in 2005, Mayor Kilpatrick was forced to make drastic cuts to city’s services and layoffs of city employees to avoid bankruptcy. While making the cuts, he failed to address Detroit’s longer-term structural deficits, instead using long term bonds to cover the city’s short-term deficits. In addition, the mayor resorted to raising taxes on constituents, 40% of which already were already refusing to pay taxes in protest of prior cuts to city services.

In parting, Mayor Kilpatrick exclaimed that he, “ Built more houses in the city than any mayor in the city of Detroit, fixed more streets, built more parks, built more rec centers, brought more national events to the city of Detroit than any mayor in history, more economic development than any mayor in the history of the town…We brought casinos, we brought the Major League Baseball All-Star game. Detroit took a giant step forward while I was mayor.”

With Detroit housing units having dropped from 530,000 in 1970 to 375,000 units at the start of the Mayor’s first term, 1,581 new house permits were issued during his time in office.

Unemployment remained relatively stable during Mayor Kilpatrick’s term rising from 12.8 to 14.4 until the economic implosion of 2008 when Detroit’s unemployment spiked to 24.8%. During His time in office, Murder and violent crime rates were fairly stable. Other crime was stable with burglary having the most visible increase of about a 33% rise after cuts to police in 2005.

Take Away from Mayor Kilpatrick’s term:

The writing was already on the wall, when the mayor took office. Yet still, no comprehensive long lived plan would be put in place to deal with Detroit’s turn around. Instead, reactionary responses of budget and service cuts were implemented.

Mayor Kilpatrick did have the right focus of aiding businesses into the neighborhoods of Detroit. Detroit needs growth and jobs to survive. His vision was too narrow and his implementation was ineffective.

His Next Detroit initiative was the nascent beginnings of an attempt to revitalize Detroit neighborhoods into more vibrant, livable communities capable of being integrated in a plan for regrowth of the city. Yet the concept must be tied to an integrated plan for reinvestment in industry, communities, and land use to make Detroit a growing, livable city. And Detroit’s neighborhood intiative must entail a detailed vision that encompasses best practice of urban design.

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Filed under American Governance, American Politics, City Planning, Economic Crisis, Racism

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